Mank follows Hollywood screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz, who is fed up with his MGM studio colleagues for rigging the California governor’s election. While recovering from a car accident, Mankiewicz is rushed to finish the screenplay for Citizen Kane.
Citizen Kane is still one of the films considered as the best film of all time. While I do not agree with that notion, Citizen Kane is still a cinematic classic whose place will always be cemented in film history. You do not need to see Citizen Kane in order to understand Mank, but there are plenty of references that will make more sense if you have seen Kane.
Gary Oldman stars as Mank, a fast-talking, alcoholic screenwriter who likes to spark up debate. Charles Dance stars as William Randolph Hearst, Mank’s wealthy and powerful friend who the character of Charles Foster Kane is largely based on. Amanda Seyfried stars as Marion Davis, an actress and Hearts’ beau, who develops a lovely friendship with Mank. Rounding out the cast is Lily Collins as Mank’s secretary and Tom Pelphrey, who plays Mank’s brother, Joseph Mankiewicz, who follows in his brother’s footsteps and becomes an acclaimed screenwriter.
The cast was great and I enjoyed their interactions with each other, particularly between Oldman and Collins and Oldman and Seyfried. Collins and Seyfried can both be considered to be … as their filmography is mixed, but it was nice to see them show their range and they are deserving of their place in the film. Seyfried is just so charming as Davies. I did feel like Charles Dance should have had a bigger role in the film that could better illustrate the parallels between him and the character of Charles Kane.
Mank is not really a making of Citizen Kane movie. It centers on Old Hollywood and the politics of that era. I recognize that I am more drawn to this film as someone who is more interested and familiar with Old Hollywood. I’m not too familiar with the history behind Citizen Kane, just that Orson Welles is largely the force behind it. Welles has a small supporting film in the film as well and is played by Tom Burke, who does manage to sound uncannily like him. Most people will find the studio politics to be boring, but I thought it was fascinating. I was surprised to learn that Hollywood’s fear of communism and socialism actually started this early in the 1930s and not in the 50s/60s.
David Fincher does it again, while this isn’t his best film by any means, Mank is probably the most technically impressive film I’ve seen thus far this year. The film is shot in black and white, and sound design makes Mank sound like old Hollywood movies, not to mention that the costumes and production design were impressive.
Overall, Mank is a well crafted film that centers on studio politics and state level politics during the Old Hollywood era. This film was first thought to be a making of Citizen Kane film, which is decidedly not true. It contains great performances from Oldman, Seyfriend, and Collins and has some nice snappy dialogue written by Fincher’s late father, Jack. We see how Mank’s friends and colleagues end up influencing him to write the best screenplay he has ever written that will eventually become a cinematic staple. But Mank is a niche movie that is aimed towards cinephiles and film buffs, which may end up being its biggest detriment.
I give Mank an A-